When the pandemic hit, companies were looking at ways to survive and get past the situation. As lockdowns came into place worldwide, remote working seemed like a solution to deal with the pandemic and keep companies going. However, soon organisations realised that they will now have to look for ways to thrive after the pandemic.
Human resources (HR) teams started looking for ways to make the best and most effective decisions while working remotely. These decisions were related to hiring, client services, operations, diversity and inclusion (D&I), etc.
While remotely handling a workforce that can now be spread worldwide, it has become crucial than before for companies to improve D&I within the modern workplace. Let’s look at how technology and effective remote working practices can positively impact an organisation’s D&I strategies.
Importance of D&I in the Next-Gen Workplace
Gone are the days when D&I was considered to be the responsibility of HR teams alone. Companies today have realised that it is a serious concern and warrants more attention than it used to get. Business leaders understand that creating a diverse and inclusive workplace is the responsibility of the whole company and they are ready to take on more leadership in this regard.
Remote working has made it critical for workplaces to be fair, equal, and without any kind of biases. Companies must ensure that there should be no room for mistreatment or discrimination of any kind. Having a toxic work environment can affect the brand’s image, its trust factor, and its growth. It also plays a huge role in an organisation’s ability to retain and attract top talent.
Companies must ensure that there should be no room for mistreatment or discrimination of any kind. Having a toxic work environment can affect the brand’s image, its trust factor, and its growth.
Modern Technology and Its Impact on D&I
Technology and its ever-changing features impact every aspect of our lives. It changes the way we live, the way we work, and it impacts D&I in the workplace as well. Here are some ways in which technology impacts D&I positively:
In Talent Acquisition
HR teams have the critical responsibility of hiring top talent for the needs of an organisation. Here’s how technology is used for talent acquisition:
- HR teams today are using technology to tap into the vast pool of skilled global talent. They need not limit themselves within a geographical area or specific location when there is a pool of talented applicants worldwide, waiting for an opportunity.
- Remote hiring also significantly reduces biases in the process of sourcing and selecting the right candidates. This is possible with the use of artificial intelligence or AI. HR professionals can use AI-powered software to create effective job postings in the required language. This feature can suggest the best alternatives to appeal to a diverse talent pool.
- AI can be used as a preliminary screening tool for submitted applications and resumes. It can identify top talents and help in applicant screening.
- Humans may have unconscious biases that can affect the hiring process and its decisions. Since AI ignores demographics like age, sex, race, etc., it can significantly reduce human biases during recruiting.
AI can be used as a preliminary screening tool for submitted applications and resumes. It can identify top talents and help in applicant screening. Click To Tweet
In Training and Development
If companies want to retain the top talent, they must make serious and concrete efforts in providing all employees with adequate and equal training and development opportunities. Only when employees feel that the company is investing in their careers will they feel motivated to give their best to the company.
Another important aspect is sensitising employees about D&I. It is important to conduct virtual training programs to ensure employees have the right understanding of D&I. Instilling proper knowledge about D&I helps foster belonging, inclusion and build a great work culture. Some topics covered during online D&I training can be understanding respect in the workplace, addressing unconscious bias, gender equality, and sexual diversity, etc.
In Employee Engagement
No organisation can succeed unless its workforce is engaged, productive, and motivated. Employees must feel connected with the company and invested in its progress.
By using the power of technology, companies can create D&I-focused employee engagement programs. These programs can help the company understand how involved and satisfied the employees are at work. Some examples of engagement programs are social clubs, mentorship programs, charity fundraisers, staff parties, etc. It is also essential to monitor these programs to ensure participation among genders and other demographic criteria.
For Closing Gender and Wage Gaps
A crucial factor that influences employee morale is the absence of gender or wage gaps. With automation technology, the disparities in employee benefits due to gender or wage gaps can be reduced or eliminated.
One example would be by using an AI bot. This bot can look through multiple data sources and give HR teams an accurate insight into the company’s benefits and compensation patterns. The advantages of using automation are that it eliminates any human oversight and reveals gaps without any human biases.
Remote Working and D&I
Though remote working is not a new phenomenon, companies and employees are discovering its many advantages with time. Employees can work flexible hours and save on valuable commuting costs and time. For employees, reduction in operational costs and better productivity are only some of the major benefits of remote working.
With a talent pool that spans across the globe, HR teams can access a diverse group of potential hires. HR teams can choose candidates to meet the specific needs of the business, keeping D&I in mind.
With a global workforce, remote teams can work not just across the country but even across time-zones. For example, if your office in Asia closes at 8:00 p.m., it is the time your remote team in North America is starting their day at work. This means more time to work and better productivity.With a talent pool that spans across the globe, HR teams can access a diverse group of potential hires. HR teams can choose candidates to meet the specific needs of the business, keeping D&I in mind. Click To Tweet
D&I Strategy for Remote Teams
When employees are part of a remote team, they work and communicate differently. Since the interactions are virtual, they are devoid of any office noise or distractions and offer more freedom. Without any ‘typical’ office politics in play, employees may also feel more relaxed as they work from home or any convenient location. The chances of physical or visible biases are also reduced.
However, remote working can get demanding, and it comes with its share of challenges. This is why HR managers must have a D&I strategy in place to make this transition an easy one for all employees. Here are some ways to get started:
1. Get a Structure in Place
Employees work in different locations and different time-zones, making it a challenging task. It is not unusual for employees and teams to feel disconnected from each other. Creating a structure and rhythm for the work processes can help solve this issue to a large extent.
HR teams must create clear time-tables for employees to know what each one of them is doing. This will give employees an overview of the process and where they fit into it.
Being inclusive also ensures that the convenience of all team members is considered when creating the time-table. For example, rotate the timings of meetings regularly, so it does not inconvenience only one set of employees always.
Working from home can get challenging especially if the employees are primary caregivers for young children or old parents. HR teams must ensure meetings are held at reasonable hours. Whenever possible, HR teams could ask employees for their preferred times for meetings. This will make employees feel included and valued.
2. Check-in With All Employees
HR teams must work towards making employees feel like they are an intrinsic part of the organisation. Working remotely and physical distance can put a strain on professional relationships. This can be avoided by having regular interactions with the workforce.
HR managers should not give feedback to teams only during quarterly, or annual reviews. Frequent one-on-one time is something most employees appreciate. Regular feedback helps remind employees that their hard work is valued and important.
It’s also essential that feedback must include past performance and also strategies for successful professional growth.
3. Keep Communication Open
The workplace must be a place where opinions are heard and valued. An inclusive workplace fosters creativity and productivity. Communication is a two-way process and steps must be taken to ensure that communication channels are always open.
Whether it’s via phone calls, video calls, or messaging on company communication channels, HR teams must find the best ways to communicate regularly. This is especially important when it comes to new hires. HR teams should check-in regularly to know if they need assistance with anything and check if they are settling in comfortably. HR managers can also block certain times of the day so that employees can connect with them during those times of the day.
Employees must not feel alienated or disconnected. HR professionals must always take the first step to reach out to employees. This not only serves as an icebreaker but also puts employees at ease.
Sometimes employees may face unconscious biases at work. They may even feel unsure about discussing it with their colleagues or senior team members. HR teams must ensure employees do not hesitate to bring such matters to their attention. Employees must feel confident and comfortable to discuss any such issues they or anyone else around them may face.
4. Improve Team Collaboration
One of the biggest factors that can impact unity and inclusion is a feeling of isolation among employees. The barriers of physical distance can make anyone feel disconnected from other team members and the organisation. HR teams must make team building a priority to encourage employee interactions.
Team building exercises must be decided while keeping employee views and preferences in mind. Activities like online board game sessions and workshops should be a part of employee bonding. HR teams must ask employees for suggestions and incorporate their ideas wherever possible.
These events can help build team unity no matter where each team member is located geographically, ensuring no one feels left out.
5. Foster Equality
While dealing with employees, HR teams may feel some prefer taking a backseat. In that case, HR teams must look for ways to get all team members involved in the working of the company.
One example could be to ask each team member to present some part of the meeting. Another strategy is to use the tool of shared leadership. This means every member is given a chance to take responsibility for some part of the project.
In remote working, HR teams must understand the importance of managing culturally diverse teams. One example of being culturally sensitive would be to decide the most appropriate option for the preferred language for communication.
Employees of all religions, faith, and cultures must feel welcome in the company. The workplace should be free of discrimination based on class, gender, physical ability, sexual orientation, religion, etc. Only when this happens will a workplace be considered a diverse, inclusive, and equal one.
6. Handling Virtual Interactions
Virtual platforms are now predominantly used to conduct meetings, and these can tend to get boring. For example, employees will not look forward to these meetings if they are conducted frequently. HR teams must limit virtual meetings and encourage other forms of communication whenever possible.
During online meetings or interactions, some employees may tend to engage in bullying or display discriminatory behaviour. HR teams must be watchful as sometimes these behaviours may be subtle and not obvious. Lay a strict code of conduct with clear instructions about dealing with such matters.
The pandemic has forced families to stay together for longer periods than before. Some employees may not be able to find a quiet space or an environment without ambience noise. In such cases, HR teams must relax rules and use their best judgement and generous consideration.
HR teams must inform employees about the agenda and purpose of the meeting well in advance. This helps employees to prepare and contribute constructively to the meeting. It also helps employees clear about what to expect in the meeting. When employees are given a chance to offer their views and opinions, employee engagement increases.
7. Conduct Surveys
An employee survey is an effective way for HR teams to gather insights into what’s important to the employees. Surveys can help HR teams to understand how engaged employees are at work. It also gives employees a platform to voice their opinion and share feedback on whether something is bothering them. Employees feel valued, included, and a part of the organisation.
8. Offer Emotional Support
In these challenging times, offering emotional support is critical to the physical and mental well-being of employees. HR teams must offer flexibility in work timings whenever possible. Hard work and excellence must be appreciated as they can serve as a motivational tool for better performance. HR teams must also reach out to employees to help them tackle the challenges of remote working.
Though this culturally diverse world has been threaded together by modern technology, the journey of creating a diverse and inclusive workplace when working remotely is an ongoing one. Some of the biggest benefits of a remote workforce for an organisation are reduced operational costs, better employee productivity, and access to a wide talent pool.
By leveraging technology and having the right D&I strategies in place, an organisation can attract and retain talented employees, and create a happy and productive workforce without any visible or invisible bias.